Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Misconceptions about the Singapore Democrats

Singapore Democrats
Feb 3, 2009

Through the years, much has been said about the SDP. As a result many views have been formed and propagated about what we stand for, our beliefs and how we go about achieving our goals – some accurate and others completely false.

We take a moment here to address these misconceptions so that Singaporeans can get a better understanding of the party. The information below will also be useful to counter the propaganda put out by the PAP.

Misconception No. 1: The SDP is not interested in parliamentary elections

Parliamentary elections are the cornerstone of a functioning democracy and we cannot emphasize more that we see elections as the only legitimate way of political parties gaining power. We have taken part in every election in the past and will continue do so in the future.

What we don't believe in, however, is that an opposition party, under present political circumstances, should focus exclusively on elections. This is because elections in Singapore are not free and fair. The PAP amends electoral rules to suit its own needs, controls the media, and victimises opposition leaders. Where else in the world can a prime minister openly say that he needs to "fix" the opposition and "buy" votes -- and get away with it?

The truth is that it is impossible for the opposition to make any meaningful inroads into Parliament through the existing electoral process. This is why, over and above taking part in elections, opposition parties – together with civil society – must work to reform the election system.

What the SDP wants to see is a truly fair parliamentary election system in Singapore, one acceptable by international standards.

Misconception No. 2: The SDP wants to effect change through "extra-legal" means

As explained above, when effecting change through undemocratic elections is impossible other peaceful, non-violent approaches are the only other options open.

What the SDP is fighting for are the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly for Singaporeans, rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. They are the building blocks of free and fair elections without which we cannot press the Government to reform the electoral process.

But when the PAP continues to violate the Constitution and bans citizens from peaceful assembly, Singaporeans must stand up and protect our Constitution. The only way that this can be achieved is by defying the repressive laws put in place by the PAP.

Protecting the Constitution is not extra-legal because the Constitution is the supreme law of the country. It is the PAP that has resorted to extra-legal measures by violating the supreme law of the land.

Misconception No. 3: The SDP is an extremist party that advocates breaking laws

Let us be absolutely clear: Citizens cannot go about breaking a law just because they don't agree with it. This is not what civil disobedience is about. Civil disobedience is about standing up and not submitting to unjust laws put in place by governments to deny citizens their most basic rights. These rights are universally accepted as inalienable to all persons and the PAP has no right to take them away.

In fact it is the PAP that does not adhere to the rule of law. Case in point: The police arrested Tak Boleh Tahan protesters on 15 Mar 08 while allowing Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) members to conduct their protest. Such discrimination clearly infringes Article 12 of the Constitution which demands that the law must apply equally to all without favour or fear.

We, the Singapore Democrats, are protecting our Constitution and there is nothing extreme about that. In fact it is the duty of all citizens of this republic to stand up for our Constitutional rights.

In any democratic society, we would be considered a moderate party. It is only in an authoritarian system that the ruling party tries to brand reformers as extremists.

Misconception No. 4: The SDP does not offer constructive alternative ideas

Like the other misconceptions, this is one that the PAP likes to spread despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

Way back in 1994 the party adopted Dr Chee Soon Juan's book Dare to Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore as its manifesto. The book explicitly spells out alternative policies as well as the rationale for these ideas, including those for the economy, politics, society, culture and the arts, education and the media.

These ideas were subsequently expanded in Your Future, My Faith, Our Freedom: A Democratic Blueprint for Singapore. They are further developed in A Nation Cheated. Our flagship publication, The New Democrat, and pamphlets consistently focus on our alternative ideas to the PAP programmes. A look at Our Manifesto in this website would nail the lie that the SDP does not offer constructive alternatives. The latest example is our Budget proposal to help Singaporeans and the economy.

But Singaporeans don't know much of this because the state media will not publish our ideas and keeps printing lies that the Singapore Democrats simply criticise and don't offer constructive ideas.

Misconception No. 5: The SDP is only interested in human rights and not bread-and-butter issues

The SDP has always been at the forefront of raising concerns about the escalating prices of essentials. Again, a quick glance through this website would show clearly that issues such as health care costs, CPF savings, public transport fares, etc are regularly addressed.

The ongoing Tak Boleh Tahan campaign, for example, is one of our main programmes to ensure that the Government keeps the cost of living affordable. The plight of working Singaporeans and SMEs remain high on our agenda. In fact during the general elections, we zero in on pocket-book issues such as the minimum wage, retrenchment entitlements, and the Singaporeans First Policy.

The reason why the wider public does not realise this is because the mass media censor much of what we say and do, especially on pocketbook issues that we raise. A good example is their refusal to report our proposals for this year's Budget.

At the same time, however, it is important to bring up human rights matters. Human rights and bread-and-butter issues are two sides of the same coin. In order for us to talk to the people about issues that concern them, we need freedom of speech. Without this freedom we cannot effectively communicate with the people.

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